The Buffalo Public School District and SUNY Buffalo State have launched the city’s first-ever Urban Teacher Academy for high school students. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says about 20-ninth graders joined the program this fall at McKinley High School.
Freshman students participating in this brand new Urban Teacher Academy are already performing like future teachers. Some walked right up to introduce themselves to welcome you into their classroom.
The city district and Buffalo State created the Urban Academy to address the issue of racial disparity among teachers and a teacher shortage.
“So we need to elevate the cadre – the number of people that are coming to the teaching profession,” remarked Katherine Conway-Turner, Buffalo State President.
Conway-Turner tells us the college is committed to growing the urban teaching profession.
“Because right now we have about 80% of our students that are from underrepresented groups, but only 15 to 20% of our teachers,” Conway-Turner explained.
“Teaching always was one of the noble professions,” said Kriner Cash, Buffalo Schools Superintendent.
It’s being called a “grow our own" initiative to cultivate a diverse pool of future teachers that would remain committed to teaching in Buffalo schools. Cash encouraged the students to stick with the program and make a commitment to be a future Buffalo teacher.
“Because the Urban Teacher Academy is promising to make a deal that for your commitment and your hard work, you’ll have a pathway to success and long-term, gainful employment in our growing economy,” said Cash.
Students will take four college-level courses. If successfully completed, the 12 credit hours that would then be accepted at Buff State's teachers programs.
Buffalo State Dean of the School of Education Dr. Wendy Paterson told the McKinley students they are now true "pioneers".
“There will never be another one of you – never be another first Urban Teacher Academy – you’re it and what that means for us is that we will support you in where ever that pioneering dream takes you,” Paterson stated.
Buffalo State Associate Dean Kathy Wood was thrilled to see city students learning about the teaching profession.
“I said I want to cry over there. I love how engaged and excited you all our and I’m so proud of you. 13 and 14 year olds, to be able to this, come in – commit yourself to teaching – I love it,” declared Wood.
These students will also participate in activities at Buff State to prepare for college.
Felice Brandy is the Urban Academy teacher.
“I do let them decide the different ways in which they would like to see themselves in education, so we aren’t always talking about them being a teacher, but just talking about the education field itself,” Brandy described.
Brandy us the real work will be make sure they remain interested.
“That is the key – because they are so young, they’re very, very interested in having fun. I have to make teaching seem fun. This is not elementary education here at McKinley – they’re in high school, so I have to make the content that they’re getting to make sure I’m deliver it in a very engaging way and one of the ways in which I do that is making sure learning is student centered – that learning is project based – that learning is hands on,” Brandy said.
Freshman Gabrielle Baldwin wants to be a future pre-school teacher and was inspired by four year old sister.
“Seeing the expressions on her face when she learns new things excites me,” Baldwin said.
“How important is it for you -- having a teacher of color in the classroom?” asked Buckley.
“That’s where racial comes in. I think the students can relate to the teacher better since they come from the same place. The students can feel more comfortable with the teacher,” responded Baldwin.
"When I’m in the class with my classmates, I can learn more about their culture as they learn more about mine,” remarked Rakim Scales, freshman.
Sales wants to be a future art teacher.
“I want to be able to have an impact on kids by showing them that they’re not alone,” Scales said.
The first cohort represent not only Buffalo, but several countries around the world including Nepal, Kenya, Jordan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Burma.
Teacher Brandy said the program will develop “culturally responsive students” to become “culturally responsive educators”.